Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Prevention Connection: Prevention Requires a Community-Wide Effort

Prevention Connection: Prevention Requires a Community-Wide Effort A column on how a community working together can better fight the influence of drugs and alcohol. March 28, 2013 - The Burlington Patch The following is a guest column by Marilyn G. Belmonte of the Burlington Drug & Alcohol Task Force: The Burlington Drug & Alcohol Task Force was originally established in 1982 in response to then Governor Ed King’s pledge to reduce underage drinking and teen drug use. After creating the Governor’s Alliance Against Drugs, he encouraged communities in the Commonwealth to created their own groups to work on the problem at the grassroots level. Burlington became the first town to form a prevention coalition to deal with teen substance abuse. What are community coalitions? Community coalitions are comprised of parents, youth, school professionals, law enforcement, businesses, religious leaders, health providers and other agency leaders who are mobilizing at the local level to make their communities safer, healthier and drug-free. How do coalitions make a difference in communities? Coalition building is an effective strategy that promotes coordination and collaboration and makes efficient use of limited community resources. By connecting multiple sectors of the community in a comprehensive approach, it has been proven that community coalitions achieve real, long-lasting outcomes. "Schools, community leaders, law enforcement, policy makers, parents, and youth must work together and leverage each other's strengths and resources in order to prevent underage alcohol and drug use in communities across the country", said Charles Reynolds, Division Director of SAMHSA's Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP). Studies show that coalitions create community-wide, sustainable changes. A coalition can build a lasting base for change. Group efforts can be more easily maintained than individual efforts. A coalition of organizations can win on more fronts than a single organization working alone and increase the potential for success. A coalition can bring more expertise and resources on complex issues, where the personnel resources of any one organization would not be sufficient. Diverse backgrounds and different viewpoints will increase valuable contributions to the overall strategy for change. Coalitions avoid duplication of efforts and improve communication among key players. I have helped many other Massachusetts communities create coalitions in recent years in response to youth tragedies. I believe Burlington has been spared the level of teen deaths that other communities are experiencing because of the collaborative work of the Task Force over the past decades. But we cannot maintain the coalition and keep our youth safe without your help. If you work for the school department, health department, police department, recreation department, town offices, own a local business, are a clergy leader, or have children in our school system, please consider joining our coalition. We meet seven times a year, alternating between daytime and evening meetings. For more information, visit our Facebook page, “Burlington Drug & Alcohol Task Force” or contact us at marilynbelmonte58@yahoo.com. Related Topics: Burlington Drug & Alcohol Task Force, Community Coalitions, and Prevention Connection